School board: No contract for longtime district administrator
The contract of a 10-year Tahoe Truckee Unified School District administrator was not renewed by the school board last week, despite pleas from community members who said the employee is the best person for the job.
Ruta Krusa, the now-outgoing director of curriculum and instruction, was hired by the district a decade ago to oversee the district’s bilingual programs. Krusa has taken on more hats in her time with the district. In her most recent contract-renewal evaluation, Assistant Superintendent Jo Lynn Wilson summarized Krusa’s performance as “exceeds standards in all areas.”
Parents and district employees have asked why such a seemingly valuable administrator could be fired. They have received few answers.
“Some people in the district are saying ‘If [the district] is allowed to do this, who’s next? Teachers, administrators, anyone who works for the district?’ It’s very frightening,” said Margie Meyer, an English language development teacher who has worked for the school district since ’93.
District Superintendent Dennis Williams, who recommended to the school board that Krusa’s contract not be renewed next year, would not discuss why Krusa was fired because personnel details are confidential, he said.
Krusa said Williams did not give her a concrete reason for her dismissal. In late April, Williams gave Krusa two weeks to resign, Krusa said, but she waited for the school board to decide her fate on May 5.
In closed session, the school board voted 4-1 to not renew Krusa’s contract. School board President Cindy Gustafson would only say that the board upheld the superintendent’s recommendation.
Link to Spanish-speaking community
Krusa has been considered an administrative go-between for Spanish-speaking parents in the district. She has also helped those parents navigate the American school system.
Meyer and other teachers and parents have expressed concern that Spanish-speaking parents will no longer have an effective way to communicate to school administration.
“She’s irreplaceable,” Meyer said. “There’s going to be nobody who can fill her shoes. No one in administration or on the school board is bilingual.”
Krusa’s tenure with the school district began as a full-time bilingual coordinator. She oversaw programs for English language learners, who are mostly native Spanish speakers in TTUSD, and created procedures for language development programs.
She also created an English learner plan because of the increasing demographic of Spanish-speaking children in the district. Krusa started the state-mandated English Learner Advisory Committees at each school site and led a district-wide committee of the same name.
Five years ago, Krusa was instrumental in getting the Dual Language Immersion program started at Kings Beach Elementary School.
“Those [English learner] programs are very close to my heart,” said Krusa, who immigrated to America from a World War II German refugee camp with her family as a child.
Within two years of being hired, district administrators gave Krusa the responsibility of overseeing categorical programs in addition to her bilingual coordinator duties. Krusa reintroduced Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs to the district and ran the GATE advisory committee. She started the GATE Institute, an annual workshop for gifted students, their parents and their teachers.
Then, in the summer of 2001 Krusa took on curriculum in addition to bilingual and categorical programs.
When Krusa became the curriculum director, then-Superintendent Pat Gemma gave the paperwork responsibilities of categorical funding to another district employee, while Krusa continued overseeing the programs.
In addition to her other duties, Krusa said she initiated the staff development buyback program, worked toward compliance with the sometimes-ambiguous No Child Left Behind Act, was a summer school principal, compiled standardized testing data and held training sessions so teachers could be certified to teach Spanish-speaking students.
Krusa says that her problem may have been inability to say “no” to school district administrators about taking on more projects and responsibilities.
“I really want to do a good job,” she said. “I really want to do the best job. I don’t mind having a ton of responsibilities and all these things; it’s heading these committees. Sometimes I would just need assistance. That’s the thing – I’m not afraid of hard work.”
In two to three weeks, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District will begin to advertise for the director of curriculum and instruction. Superintendent Williams said he wants to have a candidate for the position by the July school board meeting.
Esther Bousquet, a second-grade bilingual education teacher at Truckee Elementary School, said she hopes bilingual support will be maintained in Tahoe Truckee Unified.
“I’m hoping [Williams] is not going to leave the position vacant,” she said. “But, on the other hand, I can’t imagine a better person for the job than Ruta.”
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